Thursday, November 20, 2008

With Virtual Tours And Great Photos Do I Really Need To Look At A House Before Buying?

Our industry has certainly changed in recent years, and one of the most dramatic of all the changes is the manner in which we market properties. Most real estate agents have websites where they post the properties they have listed for sale. Most have many photos of those properties, and many have virtual tours of their listings. A virtual tour is a series of pictures stitched together so they look like a video. You can actually see the best features of a home sitting at your keyboard.

With so much visual information available it would seem like one could look at a property online and not have to take the time to physically look at it before making a buying decision. The reality is that one must beware when relying on photos. There are many things that can be done with photos that could disappoint a Buyer that didn’t visit the property before finalizing their contract. An ultra-wide angle lens can make a room seem huge, but if you really need the size you think you are looking at you might be disappointed with the real room when you get in it. Hint: look for converging vertical lines in the picture – cheap ultra-wides don’t stop such distortion in the picture.

Photos also don’t always have the detail necessary to make an informed decision. When we asked our assistant about a showing the other day her comment, “they did a really good job with those pictures”, said it all. The home looked superb in the MLS photos, but was actually creepy to walk through because of its deteriorated condition. The opposite can also be true – an agent can take marginal photos of a wonderful property. Don’t eliminate a property that suits your wants/needs based on poor visual marketing efforts – make sure it really, really won’t work for you. You might be delightfully surprised by taking the time to view the property.

What makes good and bad pictures? Lighting, subject matter (don’t you just love looking at a picture of the commode instead of the back yard?), and quantity (some only have one outside picture – no detail photos). Things you can’t see in a picture are odors, true room size, true colors, neighborhood sounds, i.e.- road noise, condition of neighboring properties and their impact on the subject property’s value, flow of the floor plan, mold, water damage, etc.

Our advice: Don’t be the victim of a Photo Shop artist. We have been told of photo doctoring that makes a property appear differently than it really is. You can get an idea of what a property consists of from a good website presentation, and you can even make an offer based on that information, but we highly recommend that you have a clause that provides for an onsite inspection before you reach the point of no return in the transaction. There is nothing like approaching a home, looking up and down the street, walking up the front walk, and entering what may be your new home. How does it feel? What are you seeing? Does the floor plan flow with your preferred lifestyle? Agents present the highlights of a home in their best light. It is your duty to find the converse aspects, if any, and how they will affect your buying decision. You will know if the home is “It” when you see it.

Shop at your desk and then go enjoy the home you found. Some things will only be discovered with a Pest and/or Physical Inspection, but you will get a good idea of what a home offers you by visiting it. Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-5472,,

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